I follow Pi Nou and Pi Nit out into the community. I’m in the tray of the car, with the hot wind drawing hair across my face and sending all the smells of all the streets in Chiang Mai into my nose. I have to squint my eyes to keep the dirt out of them.
Nou and Nit are the experts at this work; at meeting people where they are at. There’s no force, nothing fake about it. They are a dynamic couple, a pair that are sold out to what they do and why they do it. Sold out fully, not empty. Each Tuesday and Thursday morning they’re already waiting out the front of The River for more people to join them. They’re eager to go. There’s not a minute to waste. They have love at the centre of everything they do.
I see love in the way Nit holds herself, the way she looks deep into you, the way she speaks a quiet word and then covers her mouth as quickly as it comes out, like it escaped her too soon.
Her past is so far removed from mine, and yet I feel like I know her. She grew up in a refugee camp in Northern Thailand, malnourished and exposed to the harshness of life. My life has never been harsh the way hers has. But because of her life, she knows what it means to struggle and she knows what the people truly need, beyond food and water and a roof over their heads. She knows love and she gives love. I see it in everything she does.